Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Ministers

In the last few decades there has been much discussion and discernment in the Church, especially regarding the liturgy. Indeed, many things have changed. Because of these changes, there has arisen the necessity of clarifying terms to ensure that what didn't change (namely, our doctrine) is preserved.

One such search for adequate and proper terminology was in the case of those who distribute during the Communion Rite who are not priests or deacons - what are these people to be called? Initially, some documents called them "Special Ministers." They were also more specified by "Special Ministers of Communion" or "Special Ministers of the Eucharist." Perhaps they were simply called "Ministers of the Eucharist."

Usually, though, these terms were simply being used, or their use was primarily in regard to simply the action they were performing. In this sense, they were "ministering the Eucharist" in that they were distributing our Lord's body and blood in the Eucharist during the Communion Rite. But, they didn't hold this position by way of their state in life. That, of course, belonged to priests and deacons. So, the Church then began to add the term "extraordinary." So some then started to call them "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist." Yet, upon even further reflection, this term was discovered to be inadequate.

Why? Well, what is the Eucharist? Indeed, if we want to talk about the thing that we can literally distribute and hand out to people, we can talk about that as being the Eucharist. But, if we want to talk about the action of the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the whole liturgical action of the offering, this too is the Eucharist. (St. Thomas Aquinas would distinguish these between the res et sacramentum (the thing and symbol) and the sacramentum tantum (symbol only), respectively.)

Eventually, the Magisterium finally came to a conclusion on what we should call these people, based upon who they are and what it is they are doing. "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" is the term to be preferred; all the rest are inaccurate. They are, in the end, not ordained for that function; rather, they only fill it because of the need for helpers. As well, they are not really ministering the Eucharist (only priests do that), as much as they are ministering Holy Communion - we call it, after all, the Communion Rite.

So why this long spiel? This morning, Archbishop Nienstedt was here again. He installed six men (who are preparing to be permanent deacons in this Archdiocese) as Acolytes, that is, servers at the altar, and permanent Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. It was a pleasure to have him here; and it was a joy to see our brothers who are aspiring to Orders come one step closer to Ordination.

Congratulations, men. Our prayers are with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.